Anyone familiar with software development knows agile is the way to go when developing new software or a product. But when it comes to a career, what does it mean? I didn’t think about it until that moment when I was in the middle of a coaching session with a senior technology leader of a Fortune 500 company. Let’s call him Peter.
Peter was planning a transition, leaving his corporate VP job and starting doing something on his own in about a two-year timeframe. But he was getting frustrated that he didn’t know what it would be, and he couldn’t make any progress because he didn’t know “it.” It sounded like a chicken and egg problem or a “deadlock” (those who studied Operating Systems in computer science class would be able to relate). He was stuck. I even could sense that stuckness in myself as I was sitting across the table. I took a slow breath to ease that feeling in my body and invited him to do the same. Even though he was clueless, he obliged my request and reluctantly engaged in a few deep breathing with me. I reminded myself – that the client is whole, resourceful, creative, and capable. All I needed was to remind him of his resourcefulness.
I asked him what he was proud of himself in his long career. “The ability to deliver a product, no matter how complex, how new, it is,”- Peter replied with a deep conviction. “What helps you to deliver,” I asked. “Well, I do in sprints as in the agile development process. We take a small chunk of the problem, build a prototype and test it. It helps us learn about the system. We then plan the next phase with additional complexity”. His face started to show more confidence. “What if you treated this next step of your career as a new product” – I asked. He looked at me, confused. Then after a few seconds, it seemed a light bulb went off, his face got brightened, and his eyes lit up. “Hmm…you mean instead of seeing it as a big monolithic project, I can take the agile approach. Hmm, interesting, never thought that way”!
Peter started seeing light at the end of the tunnel. He left the session promising to design the first sprint by that weekend. That day this veteran technology leader learned one more time that agile is better than waterfall – in a very personal way.